Posted (11/11/2018) -
The long time Mazda racers at Team Sahlen, presented by honeybeeBase.com, continue to keep the flame of the Mazda rotary engine at the sharp edge of the pack in Endurance Sports Car Racing. In 2016 and 2017, the team was able to secure OVERALL Victories in both the World Racing League and ChampCar Endurance Series. This was accomplished with Team Sahlen’s rotary powered Mazda RX7s.
For the 2018 season, the team again would be racing their trio of Rotary powered Mazdas. The team would be competing in 3 different Sports Car Endurance Series: American Endurance Racing, World Racing League and ChampCar Endurance Series. Each series offered a unique set of car specs and competition rules that the team had to adjust for.
At the end of the year, the team was successful in repeating an OVERALL Victory for the Rotary motor. The achievement was at the fall ChampCar Endurance Series Pittsburgh Grand Prix held at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex. This victory was a hard-fought battle, with the Rotary Rocket winning by a scant 4 feet over its Bavarian counterpart
For Team Sahlen, winning again with the Mazda Rotary is a challenge they take personally. Joe Sahlen shared his thoughts - “It was amazing to win the 7 hour enduro by just 4 feet. Everyone knows how great handling all the Mazda Rotaries are. Whether it is our current RX7s or the RX8s we raced in the ROLEX series, the amazing 50/50 weight balance of the cars make them a dream to drive.”
Team Sahlen’s history with Mazda in Endurance Sports Car Racing in North America dates back beyond the past three years. In fact, the team’s history spans all the way back to the early 90s.
Driver Will Nonnamaker shared fond memories from this period in the 1990s - “In 1994, we debuted the Mazda MX6 in the IMSA Firestone Firehawk Endurance Series. As with any new production car that is transformed into a race car, there is always considerable development work. We worked closely with the Mazdaspeed team in California to develop the MX6 into a consistent front runner. Then in 1997 we were successful in winning the Street Touring (ST Class) Championship. And then we were able to follow that up in 1999, with racing the Mazda 626 four door sedan to the Street Touring Championship.
Over the next decade, Team Sahlen would continue to successfully campaign Mazda racers in Endurance Racing across North America. These race cars in included the RX-8, Mazdaspeed3 and the RX-8 GT racer. It was in the Mazda RX-8 GT racer that Team Sahlen was able to deliver the last ever professional victory for the Rotary motor at Mazda Raceway – Laguna Seca in 2012.
Of special note, Wayne Nonnamaker drove the winning Mazda at both the 2012 victory as well as this year’s rotary victory at the ChampCar event at Pittsburgh. Wayne shared his thoughts – “I am very proud to have been a part of the rich racing history of Mazda through the years. And it’s very enjoyable to still be adding to that win tally for Mazda and their rotary motor over the past several years.”
For 2019, Team Sahlen will again be campaigning their trio of RX7s in the ChampCar Endurance Series in hopes to continue the rotary winning tradition.
With the recent unveiling of the Mazda RX-Vision show car at this past winter’s Tokyo Auto Show, there is the strong likelihood of a rotary powered street car again in the future. And when that time occurs, don’t be surprised if Team Sahlen will be building, racing and winning with one of those rotary rockets in Endurance Sports Car Racing across North America.
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